Paris, Part 2

April 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Second half my Paris re-cap: Vanessa and I ate lots and lots of raw, super fresh oysters throughout our trip. It was crazy how ubiquitous they were and always so delicious (didn’t get a stinker the entire time we were there). Here is a starter before a much heavier meal at seafood-oriented Marius et Janette, right before Dita’s show at Crazy Horse.

We visited the Musee d’Orsay, one of my favorite museums in the world, and got lost in some Impressionist art one afternoon.

Browsed beautiful Astier de Villatte ceramics while shopping on the super luxurious Rue Saint Honore.

Stopped by Cafe de Flore for champagne and potato chips. This is what we loved most about Paris…falling into the leisurely habit of sitting at a sidewalk cafe, people watching and not worrying about where to hurry to next. By the end of the trip, we were total pros.

A crazy good meal at Le Servan, run by sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha, where they’re cooking up some seriously creative and slightly Asian-inflected food in an airy and almost Williamsburg-esque bistro. This was the first time Vanessa had ever had veal sweetbreads (this version was roasted and perfectly tender) and I don’t think she was disappointed.

After Le Servan, we stopped by Prescription for some really great cocktails…I think I had about 10 different kinds of booze this night (something gin + citrus based, their version of a Negroni, their version of a Penicillin, shots of rum and on and on and on) while Vanessa fell in love with their gin + tonics and kept throwing them back. By the time they were closing up shop, we were so hammered that we asked the bartenders for their late night food recommendations and at their suggestion, ended up at a place called Chez Denis in the middle of nowhere that was literally just a bistro open late. Groups of inebriated people were eating full meals with bottles of wine at 5 in the morning and neither of us could comprehend how the French could eat so much but there you have it.

Some more culture…this time at the Musee de l’Orangerie right on the edge of the Jardins des Tuileries, which I’d never visited before. We started with the two stunning circular rooms of Claude Monet’s water lilies, where we just sat there for a long while to take everything in, and then progressed through the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection.

I also really love works by the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, so when I found out there was a standalone exhibit of his works and studio near the Centre Pompidou (admission is free, by the way), we popped by for a quick visit (the atelier is only four rooms). I mean…just look at that! I really liked that he was so particular and personally tied to his pieces that he planned exactly which sculpture went where and even refused to sell pieces that were especially dear to him.

Tasting menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in the Saint Germain neighborhood. While not as thrilling as I thought it would be (there were also a lot of Americans there, which made it feel more like a tourist destination than anything else), the service was impeccable and some of the dishes were truly standout, such as this chestnut soup with seared foie gras hidden beneath.

A flower vendor on a romantic rainy day…

The awe-inspiring stained glass windows at Sainte-Chappelle on the Ile de la Cite in the heart of Paris.

My crazy-good braised veal cheeks and buttery potatoes at the homey, modest-looking Chez L’Ami Jean. This meal, even though relatively low-key compared to some others we had, was among my favorites. We started with a comforting Parmesan soup that was perfect for the rainy weather, this as a main dish (goddamn, those potatoes) and then the biggest and richest bowl of rice pudding (with candied nuts and salted caramel sauce) that anyone had ever seen. It was also very cool to see the chef Stephane Jego and his cooks plating each dish in the open kitchen.

More art, this time at the relatively new Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation, which was currently featuring contemporary Chinese artists. Below is a photo of the gorgeous grotto on the lower level.

Our last dinner at David Toutain was another highlight. Everything about the restaurant – the interiors, the ceramics and flatware, the service (our hip-looking server actually lived and worked in Brooklyn for a while) and of course, the food, was incredible. There was a smoked eel dish in black sesame that absolutely blew our minds and the below, perfectly cooked lamb with asparagus and spring vegetables. Amazing. We were so sad our trip was coming to an end.

After dinner, we went to a bar called Le Calbar, where all the friendly bartenders were serving well-made cocktails in their boxers. Yet again, we met some friendly locals and ended up closing down the bar. A great last night out.

Our last day in Paris consisted of a lot of shopping and running errands before our flight. I stopped in Deyrolle, mainly to ogle the gorgeous displays of insects and butterflies, and considering picking up something but couldn’t figure out how to fit a fragile glass frame in my already-stuffed suitcase. So sad.

Sigh…last lunch at our good ol’ Cafe Varenne. It’d become our place for morning coffee and breaks in the middle of the day and now, we were having our last meal of charcuterie, cheese and frites. It was a beautiful sunny day and we got to sit outside and enjoy our last bit of freedom before heading home to New York. It was, all in all, a dream trip where we got to eat and drink extremely well, meet some warm and friendly locals, experience art and culture and most importantly, just relax and soak up the beauty of Paris as much as we possibly could. It was so hard to leave (I was thinking about my next trip on the flight back) and settle back into reality upon our return (though I did pick up some good butter and a jar of cornichons at Murray’s Cheese the morning after I got back) but I know that I will be back soon.

 

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Back to the NoMad

July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Visited the NoMad for the second time back in late May and had an even better experience than the first! Started with the fruits de mer “le grand plateau”, a beautiful selection of prepared raw seafood and the chicken liver mousse with pickles and rye bread, which was a favorite from the previous time. At this point in our meal, we got to meet Becky Quan (!), one of the NoMad pastry chefs who I’d spoken with online after my first post on the NoMad and who brought out their highly addictive potato-onion-caraway bread and butter. Such a small world! And the in-person introduction made the rest of our meal even more fun and memorable.

We then progressed to the mackerel cured with buttermilk, peas and nasturtium, which looked absolutely stunning on the plate and tasted so bright and clean. I hadn’t really eaten much mackerel before but since this meal, I’ve actually ordered it more often when on the menu because this dish left such a great impression (and only a few other versions have been as good). We also ordered the foie gras with rhubarb, celery and pistachio, which had everything you could possibly want in a foie dish. There was creamy and smooth against crunch, sweet and tart against fatty and herbaceous. So predictable of me but I really enjoyed this dish (and I dare anyone else not to). Our sommelier of the night also gave us a great wine recommendation – a Sicilian red with dry ripe fruit notes and hints of spice and tobacco – that paired well with all our courses and never overwhelmed.

For our main dish, we ordered the roast chicken for two (duh). Just as great as the first time – the combination of black truffles and (more) foie is so heady and I can never understand how they manage to keep the breast meat so juicy. And that “stuffing” of dark meat was just as outrageous and rich as I remembered.

For our dessert, we ordered the milk and honey with shortbread, brittle and ice cream and were also surprised with a complimentary strawberry cheese cake dessert courtesy of Becky Quan, Pastry Chef. While I loved both, I preferred the classic and simpler milk and honey, which had nice savory elements as well, which worked out perfectly because Ameya had basically finished the strawberry cheesecake by the time I looked up again from my plate. Can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our dinner here (thanks not only to Becky but also to James, our wonderful server who answered all of our questions and even shared the name of the artist who crafted all of the NoMad’s beautiful ceramics that I’d been obsessing over throughout the course of our meal). I’m already dreaming of the next time!

Also, even if you’re not able to stop by for a meal, I would highly recommend the NoMad bars (I like the Elephant Bar that’s connected to the restaurant itself but there’s also a separate, larger bar with its own entrance on 28th street that serves slightly more casual food). Well-crafted cocktails and though I don’t drink too much brown liquor, I’ve heard from various sources that they serve the best Manhattans in the city. 🙂

The Dutch and Little Park

June 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Two mid-day meals at two different Andrew Carmellini joints:

First, weekend brunch with Julia at the Dutch in Soho on a beautiful sunny day. To start, a selection of the raw bar, including Glidden Point (ME), Island Creek (MA), Navy Point (NY) and Totten Inlet (WA) oysters as well as littleneck clams from NY. Beautiful clean flavors from perfectly shucked shellfish with a nice, punchy horseradish and tangy mignonette, just the way I like.

We weren’t particularly famished (a rare thing) so we shared the snap pea salad with spicy green pea curry and herbs and the famous hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits and slaw. A nice balance between something green and fresh and something comforting and gluttonous. The honey slathered biscuits were out of this world – steaming and flaky on the inside – and the chicken, while not super spicy like I had imagined, had great seasoning and crispiness. The restaurant is only a few blocks away from the apartment but somehow I always forget that it’s there. I need to come back more often.

I had a short stay-cation in the middle of May and on one of those days met up with co-workers for a leisurely weekday lunch at Little Park, Carmellini’s newest restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa. This place does farm to table, vegetable-heavy dining without coming across as preachy or pretentious and all of the dishes are really well executed and unique. We got a bunch of small plates to share for our first course – the fried Brussels sprouts with apple and smoked parsnip (my favorite dish from my first visit); the beetroot tartare with horseradish and smoked trout roe and girandole pasta with duck ragu and crispy herbs. My favorite of the three was the beetroot tartare. I actually didn’t really miss the meat here and thought the separate components of rye, beet, roe and goat cheese came together in a really delicious and cohesive dish.

For my main, I ordered the duck confit leg with poached egg, stewed rhubarb and mustard greens. Actually not as memorable to me as our starters but I liked the tartness of the rhubarb against the rich, fatty duck. All of this food washed down with a couple glasses of wine and I was in a pretty buzzed and happy (and not terribly stuffed) mood when it came time to leave and move on to the next bar. 🙂

 

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